Free expression is guaranteed by the law but routinely violated in practice. In 2010, the state was praised for granting licenses to two private television stations and five radio stations, effectively ending 51 years of a state monopoly on broadcasting. In reality, however, the state retains significant control over public narratives, and newspapers can be closed for publishing information that is deemed by the state to threaten security. Journalists also practise self-censorship, especially on matters of slavery, religion and military matters. Defamation was decriminalised in 2011 but hefty fines remain. The internet is not restricted but certain online content can attract serious punishment.

In 2014, blogger and freelance journalist Mohamed Cheikh Mohamed was sentenced to death for a post criticising conservative religious beliefs. Having appealed his sentence, the appeals court rejected his application, while his lawyer abandoned his case and his family disowned him. Journalists are also routinely questioned by the authorities. In April 2015, the editor of the online newspaper Al-Bayan El-Souhoufi was summoned to explain an article on strained relations between Mauritania and Morocco. In 2014, a news manager was detained for days and his family denied access to him after he tried to hand over a file to the President during a public event.